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Member since: Tue Nov 16, 2004, 03:14 PM
Number of posts: 7,202

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Why is it so difficult for us to think the election was stolen?

We have: the Russian theory, the weak candidate theory, the sexism theory, the candidate's unbalanced message theory, the candidate's lack of pizzazz theory. We have theories out the kazoo to explain an election result that surprised *everybody*. Why is it so difficult to think, even for a moment, that somebody just stole the election? This time, it was not just the exit polls, but most of the opinion polls before the election. Nate Silver miscalled the election??? What if Nate, and the other poll readers, and the exit pollers all called the voters' intentions and actions RIGHT? Mr. Trump's victory hangs on razor thin margins in three (or more) states. Is electoral college arithmetic difficult? It can be mastered if you can add and subtract. Is it difficult to hack an optical scanner? It's easy. What is riding on the outcome of this election? An awful lot of tax payer money. Do we think our political opponents are such principled people and so scrupulous of our voting rights (stop laughing! ) that they*would never do such a thing*??? Republicans spend half their time between elections trying to minimize Democratic votes in the next election. By vote suppression measures of all kinds. Do we imagine that when voting day finally arrives, they cease all nefarious action and do their best to count every vote, including Democratic votes? What are we, crazy? In April of this year, Congressional Republicans refused to consider Pres. Obama's candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy until after the election. Mere recalcitrance? Or did they know the fix was in?

Dr. Stein's efforts to get recounts, or audits, or any confirmation at all of the accuracy of the announced vote totals were met by vigorous resistance from Republican lawyers, and those failed efforts made one thing clear. We CAN'T get a meaningful recount because of a maze of state laws, the Bush v. Gore decision, the antiquity of some voting machines, and the colossal expense of hand recounting ballots. Only a few blessed states could have responded adequately to a request for a recount because only a few are using paper ballots hand counted. ONLY those few states could have said: "Sure, it'll take us about a week." We are left to conclude, if we are honest, that our presidential elections are unverifiable. We have just spent 18 months of our lives spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigning, and often hanging on the results of every opinion poll that came out, and we CAN'T be sure of who was elected? Or, in other words, are we crazy?

Forget the Russians, who certainly seem to have played a role in yet more anti-Clinton propaganda. Why look at the Kremlin's hackers when we have perfectly competent hackers at home?

Please, I beg of you, stop whipping yourselves for one moment, and think aloud: "But what if they just stole it? Again?"

Dr. Krugman, the Russians are convenient, but not the only explanation.

Dear Dr. Krugman:

In your column in today's Times (12/16/16), you explain why you think the Russians hacked the 2016 election. You ask rhetorically: "Does anyone really doubt that [the steady drumbeat of Russian contrived leaks, and the last-minute intervention of the F.B.I.] moved swing-state ballots by at least 1 percent?"

Yes, Dr. Krugman, I really doubt that for two reasons. First, are not-quite-decided voters concentrated in swing states? Are there more easily swayed voters in electorally important states than red and blue states? What the announced election outcome looks like is a precise shift of just enough votes in swing states to move the election from one candidate to the other. Assuming, as I do, that for a good programmer it's easy to interfere with our vote counting equipment, it is the simpler explanation to suspect that vote tampering happened that that 80,000 wooly-headed voters changed their minds at the last minute in swing states, thus evading all the pre-election polls and the exit polls. No doubt Wiwileaked fluff is of great interest to the pundit class and the press, but I doubt it made that much impression on voters who: a) want to see Hillary Clinton arrested or b) find Donald Trump deplorable. If these email innuendos convinced voters to switch candidates, why was the effect so small, and so strategically located?

The second reason I doubt that Russian influence changed the election outcome is that this is not the first time American elections have seen "enormous changes at the last minute." Florida in 2000 was crucial to George W. Bush's election and Ohio in 2004 for his re-election. Vote tampering is not a new phenomenon in American politics, since the days of Tammany Hall and Mayor Daley's Machine. The electronic theft of elections is possible, according to the statisticians, programmers, and election integrity activists who have looked into the matter since 2000. I have no idea who has been tampering with our elections, but it seems reasonable to suppose that it would be easier to do from an American keyboard than a Russian one. I do not have proof of exactly who has been tampering, but it does seem unlikely that the Democratic Party would vigorously raise money to run a presidential candidate for a year in order to hand the election to his or her opponent. Election tampering would give you much greater control over the outcome than simply trying to influence voters, especially since the late email revelations had the excitement and substance of unbuttered popcorn. As long as you despise the voting public, i.e., democracy, election theft is the way to go.

It seems time for the NYTimes to consider election theft as a real possibility, rather than a wild conspiracy theory. As a theory, it explains more than the Russian influence, which is so hard to pin down. It explains why all the polls, pre-election and exit, were wrong. Perhaps there is actual science behind polling in general, and statistically sound prediction in particular. Perhaps if we could bring ourselves to accept polls as real science, especially since we spend increasing amounts of time before elections discussing their findings, we would be forced to the conclusion that someone might have taken a shortcut to election victory. If major journalistic voices are going to take this seriously, now would be the time, before we inaugurate someone we cannot prove was elected.
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